A fascinating theory on why we love cooking (and watching people cooking).

┬áIt’s been a long time I’m asking myself the reason why we love cooking shows and food photographs so much. We are cooking less and less while watching food more and more.
Every time you switch the TV on you’re probably find someone cooking. There are countless cooking shows and photographs of food on every social network, countless food blogs.
Why are we only looking to something that you should above all taste and smell? Has the sense of sight won on all the other senses and it’s enough for us to satisfy our eyes? Or the TV chefs intrigue us because they dominate an art we have forgotten?love cooking
Whatever the answer, someone cutting vegetables and mixing ingredients on TV or Youtube literally hypnotizes me.
I discovered reading the book “Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation” the the author, the journalist Michael Pollan, asked himself the same question.

Having done more research than me, he’s suggesting a fascinating answer.

Do we love cooking because our species been shaped by cooking?

Pollan reports an interesting evolution theory. Between 1.9 and 1.8 million years ago primates evolved in a new species with a much bigger brain than before: homo erectus.

An hypothesis is that this came from the consumption of proteins of meat.

While brain increased, other things got smaller: teeth, jaws and intestine.

According to the anthropologist Richard Wrangham this change can be better explained with the control of fire and discovery of cooking.

Dear crudist reader, please keep calm because I’m going to astonish you. According to this theory, evolution shaped us to eat cooked meat and vegetables.

It’s not we created the art of cooking food. It’s the cooked food that created humans.

Eating cooked food, our ancestors needed less energy to digest meat and vegetables. Cooking is like a pre-digestion: it denaturates proteins and disrupts fibers. There was more energy available to feed our high energy-demanding brain.

Crudist readers: don’t panic. It’s hard to demonstrate this theory, since we would need to find remains of fireplaces so ancient that it’s nearly impossible they are preserved.

Before cooking our ancestors wandered in woods collecting roots, fruits and small animals and eating them lonely on their way. Like most mammals do. After cooking they had to stay together around a fireplace to enjoy food. Around fire they started to communicate and became families and communities.

Even if this hypothesis doesn’t convince you, it’s undeniable that humans wouldn’t been humans without cooking food. You can say human is nothing else than the cooking monkey.

So we love cooking and watching people cooking not only for the childhood memory of grandma in her kitchen. It’s really something in our genes. It’s probably something we deeply need. And while we eat restaurant, we microwave, we grab a sandwich at McDrive we miss something fundamental to us.

(Actually, don’t you have the feeling that human brain is getting smaller these times?)

Another interesting idea I read in Pollan’s book is that with industrial food we could live without cooking in a traditional way. With a microwave and a frozen pizza you have a more than satisfactory meal. Women are finally free from this duty.

Today cooking is no more a duty, but it can be a choice.

A choice with many implications. You can decide to spend time cooking to be healthier, to live a more sustainable life, to socialize. In Italy cooking and eating together is still an important social activity. More and more people cook just for the pleasure of it. Well, then they share their meals on Instagram.
But it’s human nature.
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